Photo Credit Patti Wooten Thompson
Photo Credit Patti Wooten Thompson
As we continue our tradition of featuring Westchase Artists Society members, Mara Gessele is our first fabulous Artist of the Month for the New Year. So read on without further delay.
Question: Tell us a little bit about yourself, affiliations, personal stuff
Mara: I've been living in Tampa for the last four years. I grew up in the San Francisco bay area. After receiving my B.A. from the California College for the Arts I worked as a sculptors assistant and produced multiple jewelry art lines for various artists, for the most part of a decade before becoming a mother. After the birth of my daughter I started http://www.mom4moms.com/. I had a common issue amongst new moms. I wanted to stay at home to raise my child, but couldn't afford to do so. That's when I started my website. A portion of the proceeds purchased from my site go to charities to benefit mom/child related charities. I've also had featured "Mom" artists' pieces available for sale periodically. Recently I was fortunate enough to show some of my limited edition pieces as well as make some exotic head dresses to compliment Pamela Roehm's couture for the Chillounge Daybed Parade, as well as wicked Wonderland in St. Pete. The pieces were photographed by Patti Wooten Thompson in a fashion shoot and have now been printed in Vocess and Phassion magazines. the whole experience was very exciting. I even got to walk the catwalk at the Chillounge!
Question: Apart from creating art what do you do?
Mara: Obviously being a mom is the most important part of my life, but I always joke that I am a preschool teacher by day and an artist by night. I currently teach two-year olds at the Jewish Community Center. I love to explore nature and camp when possible. I've even dabbled into looking for fossils from time to time.
Question: What first made you want to become an artist?
Mara: Funny enough, initially as a child I wanted to be an Archaeologist which has heavily influenced my art. That aside my mom was a graphic artist for the government, Rand McNally, etc. in the 60's. I grew up doing art alongside her and going to her art openings. At an early age she taught me perspective, and I went through every art class for children three times over in some cases. I took classes from still life drawing to ceramics from the age of 7 on up. I never thought I could draw as well as my mom as hard as I tried (and I probably never will) so when I went to high school and they had a 3D art class where you could make jewelry, I knew I had my own niche. As my family reconnected with a family friend, a famous and amazing jewelry metal artist, D.X. Ross (R.I.P) who became my mentor and beloved friend, my future was sealed.
Question: Describe your creative process
Mara: I work in a lot of mediums and I love to mix them, especially when it comes to jewelry. I'll see a scrap of metal, wood, leather or a stone and it's like a shiny piece of candy to me. I'll think about what this item could have been in a different time or place. Usually I reference my research into various historic cultures and then fuse it with a modern twist. I'll put some sketches down into a book, start with that idea, and then go from there. I'm a big believer in happy accidents. I don't hold myself to stick to my sketches. I let the metal tell me what it wants to do and go from there. Most of my art is still heavily influenced by the San Francisco bay area and tends to be considered as gallery art jewelry.
Question: Top 5 books. movies, songs, groups, websites
Books - 1. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (just a classic); 2. Gods, Graves, and Scholars, by C.W. Ceram (This book fed my archeological interest as a child); 3. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling (I love that she makes magic exist for children and adults alike) 4. American Radical, by Steven Nelson (This author was a friend of my grandfather's. The book is about the war they fought in together) 5. Skin and Bones, by Diane Corso (Authoried by my friend who based a character off of myself which was an exciting experience)
Movies - 1. Pride and Prejudice (With Colin Firth in it); 2. Harry Potter (Series); 3. The Mummy; 4. Bridget Jones Diary; 5. Nightmare Before Christmas
Songs - 1. Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin; 2. Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, K.T. Tunstall; 3. In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel; 4. Do You Love Me, Nick Cave; 5. Cuts You Up, Peter Murphy
Question: In 10 years I'd like to be...
Mara: Exploring, learning, and creating. Living life to the fullest with my family and friends all healthy and happy by my side.
Mara, thanks so much for a fantastic interview!!! Stay tuned for next month's Westchase Artists Society Artist of the Month installment.